Tea Society of a Witch (Majo no Ochakai in Japan) is a lighthearted love adventure with all the ingredients that push my “guilty pleasure anime” buttons. It’s insanely cute, completely far-fetched, delightfully over the top, fanservicey, and chock full of sexual tension humor akin to that of the Ranma 1/2 anime series. The music is pretty good too. If you are looking for a love adventure that is serious-minded and features a deep and very thoughtful romance, then stop reading right now and go pick up Hourglass of Summer. If you want to experience silly romatic hijinks with a bevy of silly anime girls, then Tea Society of a Witch just may be up your alley.
Your alter ego in this game is a guy named Rokusuke Nonaka, a wisecracking high schooler who has a good heart despite the often biting sarcasm that comes out of his mouth. It’s the last day of school and it starts like any other day: with Rokusuke going next door to wake up his best friend Megumi so they won’t be late for school. After some bickering, the two go off to school. Megumi realizes that she forgot something and runs home. While she is gone, a red-haired girl in rather strange clothing crashes her “broom” (it looks like a Speeder Bike from Star Wars) into Rokusuke. From that point on, Rokusuke’s day and eventually his entire summer vacation take a turn for the wacky.
It seems the queen of the Magic Kingdom thinks the present is a good time to try and reintegrate witches into the human world, and three young witches from an elite magic school have come to Rokusuke’s town to train. One of them is Nee, the red-haired witch from before who crashed her broom. The others are Drill- a rich witch from an aristocratic family, and Ponica- a rather sullen and overly-serious witch with immense magical skill but zero interpersonal skills. The witches’ first assignment is to find a human to live with during their training session on Earth. Drill easily gets boarding at the wealthy class president’s house. Megumi agrees to take Ponica in. Nee has a rough time finding boarding, but eventually Rokusuke takes her in.
From this point onwards, how the story unfolds is up to you. Each virtual day, you are asked to select which of three girls you want to have deeper interactions with. The decisions you make within these interactions will decide whether or not you get a good ending with the girl or a bad ending where Rokusuke ends up alone. The three girls whose storylines you can follow are Drill, Nee, and Manamu (Rokusuke and Megumi’s shy classmate.) I definitely thought it was cool that though Nee is Rokusuke’s ward, he doesn’t necessarily have to pursue her romantically. Some characters get more attention than others in certain branches, but others such as Ponica get completely shafted in terms of development.
Since this is a love adventure, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the romantic aspects of the game. The romantic segments in the storyline are achingly cute, and easily my favorite part. Though the game is generally comedic in nature, the comic relief is usually kept independent of the romantic scenes. There were times the storylines got a bit melodramatic, but I liked that here. The text is generally smooth with a few minor hiccups, but nothing that detracted from my enjoyment of the game. One thing I really liked was that the subtitles were in different colors depending on who was speaking. That was a really nice touch.
Gameplay is standard fare for the genre: read/listen to the story and look at the pretty pictures until it’s time to make a decision. To be honest, the decisions presented in this game are not challenging at all. It is very easy to get the good endings. So if you’re looking for a challenging digital novel game, pick up Ever 17 or Phantom of Inferno instead. Those games have loads of tough decisions making it difficult to get a good ending.
Since this is an interactive DVD that you play using either your DVD player or the DVD player capabilities of your PC, PlayStation 2, or Xbox, you cannot save your progress at any time. You have to play until the game gives you a three character password. The password screen only gives you one letter at a time instead of all three at once so it’s a hurry-up-and-wait deal when getting the passwords. The introduction is a good 1.5- 2 hours long so you have to wait for your first password. From that point onwards, passwords come very quickly since the virtual days are short. The epilogues are 1.5- 2 hours long as well, so no passwords during those chunks either. This is not one of those games you can play in quick spurts. However, like most digital novels, it’s not very long and can be completed in a weekend or two.
The music and voice acting in the game are both very good. As is Hirameki’s policy, the dialogue is the original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles. The voice actors did a great job here. None of them had annoying or grating voices and all of them played both the over the top comedy scenes and the more gentle romantic scenes with much skill. The music was great too. There was a lot of electric guitar used in the soundtrack which is a definite soft spot for me. All the compositions represented their intended scenes, characters, and moods quite well and were always great to listen to. My only caveat is that the music was often too loud in relation to the voices and characters with soft voices like Manamu and Ponica often got drowned out. The opening vocal number is bouncy and enjoyable and there are different end credits vocal numbers depending on which girl you get an ending with.
I loved the visuals in the game. The character designs greatly appealed to me, especially that of Nee, who is adorable. Yes, the female characters tend to have exaggerated features, but that’s what I found amusing and only added to the humorous feel of the game. The backgrounds aren’t anything great but get the job done. There is one unique touch this game has, visually. There are times when a window pops up in the middle of the screen that looks like something out of an isometrically viewed 16-bit RPG with super-deformed sprites of the characters moving around. This adds motion to scenes that would normally be a bit staid. I would have liked these screens to be bigger and the sprites to have more details and animations.
At the end of the day, I quite enjoyed this game. Sure the storylines are a bit rough in terms of character development and the decisions are not very challenging, but when taken for what it is, Tea Society for a Witch is a fun little romp with delightful characters, silly situations, and some achingly cute romance that definitely brought a smile to my face.